Robert B. Crease argues that brilliant minds change the world. He chooses 10 thinkers–some obvious, some obscure–and presents their ideas and impact on today’s world. Bacon, Galileo, and Descartes defined the beginnings of Modern Science. Vico warned that Science could be used for evil purposes and issued an early warning about political leaders like Trump. Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, suggests there are limits to Science. Comte promoted Science over Religion.
I’m very familiar with Max Weber whose The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism analyzed the economics of the early 20th Century. Weber’s insights into bureaucracies are still taught in Business Schools today. I had no idea who Kemal Ataturk was. Crease’s chapter explains how this Middle-Eastern thinker tried to reconcile Science with social concerns. I confess Edmund Husserl’s work in phenomenology always baffled me. As a college student taking philosophy classes, I attempted Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology, based on four lectures Husserl gave at the Sorbonne, in the Amphithéatre Descartes, on February 23 and 25, 1929. I came away befuddled.
The final thinker in The Workshop and the World is a curious choice: Hannah Arendt. Arendt is best known for her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), where Arendt coined the inflammatory phrase “banality of evil” to describe Eichmann and the murderous bureaucracy he ran for the Nazis. Arendt’s book, Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), supplied enough evidence of the mis-uses of Science and Government to warn of planet-wide threats. Arendt is certainly a Big Picture philosopher. If you’re in the mood for some intellectual history, you’ll enjoy the very readable essays in The Worldshop and the World. GRADE: A-
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1 Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis 27
2 Galileo Galilei and the Authority of Science 48
3 René Descartes: Workshop Thinking 69
4 Giambattista Vico: Going Mad Rationally 93
5 Mary Shelley’s Hideous Idea 115
6 Auguste Comte’s Religion of Humanity 133
7 Max Weber: Authority and Bureaucracy 165
8 Kemal Atatürk: Science and Patriotism 189
9 Edmund Husserl: Cultural Crisis 205
10 Hannah Arendt: Action 229